Menopause is natural. But that doesn’t mean you have to endure the hot flushes, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and mood swings that come with it. Menopause and low DHEA levels go hand in hand, and by increasing your DHEA levels you can significantly improve your symptoms.
Luckily there are a number of ways to increase DHEA levels and restore hormonal balance, either naturally or through the use of supplements. And keeping your negative menopausal symptoms in check isn’t the only benefit of increased DHEA – it has been shown to positively impact your sex drive, too!
What is DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or ‘DHEA’, is a steroid hormone produced mainly in the adrenal glands. The ovaries also naturally release small amounts of DHEA. It’s a powerful precursor to the production of reproductive hormones such as oestrogen, and testosterone. DHEA is referred to as the mother hormone because it fuels the body’s metabolic pathway.
The average woman makes about 25 mg of DHEA a day. The production of natural DHEA reaches its peak when women hit their 20s and gradually reduces as they get older. In your 40s your DHEA levels go down to about 50%, and it’ll go down further as you move into your late 40s, 50s and beyond.
Your adrenal glands also produce the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. When you’re stressed, these hormones are released to help you cope. When you have chronic, unrelenting stress (from work, for example), your adrenals pump out a lot of these stress hormones, making them too tired to produce enough DHEA. This is known as adrenal fatigue.
Other conditions that cause low DHEA levels include a high-sugar diet, insomnia and chronic pain.
Symptoms of low DHEA levels in menopausal women
During menopause, your hormone levels drop, causing a chain reaction that speeds up the ageing process and may results in the following symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Drier, thinner skin (which means more wrinkles!)
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy
- Slowed metabolism, causing weight gain
- Hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, or insomnia
- Dry eye syndrome
- Mood swings, depression or anxiety
- Decreased libido and sexual gratification
- Decreased mental agility and alertness
- Weakened immune system
- Erratic blood sugar levels
- Decreased muscle mass and bone density
- Aching joints
These symptoms are specifically due to low DHEA levels in menopause, and can therefore usually be relieved through treatments which restore DHEA balance.
Treating low DHEA levels
Fortunately, treatments are available for women with low DHEA levels. The most effective treatments work to increase DHEA levels while restoring the balance between sex and stress hormones.
DHEA supplements come in either oral or transdermal form. A daily dose of DHEA can help increase DHEA levels and reduce the impact of adrenal fatigue. For sustainable symptom relief and optimal health, combine DHEA supplements with hormonal and nutritional support and ensure you are living an active, healthy lifestyle with plenty of sleep.
DHEA can encourage oestrogen production in the body, which may improve sexual function. You may also experience an increase in sexual desire, activity, and satisfaction due to a significant boost in testosterone, which has a prosexual effect in women.
DHEA supplements may improve other menopausal symptoms, including dry, thin, or wrinkled skin, hot flushes, and psychological effects (such as depression or anxiety). DHEA can also speed up your metabolism and suppress your appetite. A metabolite called 7-keto-DHEA increases the metabolism and aids weight loss.
Overeating and adrenal fatigue
Overeating is a cause of adrenal fatigue and can make the condition worse, increasing the severity of menopausal symptoms. To increase your level of DHEA naturally, avoid overeating and try to maintain a body mass index of 19-25. As your metabolism slows down during menopause, overeating is likely to lead to rapid weight gain, which will worsen joint pain. Try to listen to your body, eating only when you’re hungry and putting down the knife and fork when you are full. Avoiding processed, sugary foods will also reduce your risk of adrenal fatigue.
Moving your body helps reduce stress, oxygenate your cells, and increase your endorphins (the mood-elevating substances in your bloodstream). What’s more, exercising can stop muscle loss and weight gain. And remember, jogging isn’t the only way to work up a sweat. Sexual activity is a form of exercise and a great way to give your hormones a work out, too.
Get enough rest and sleep
Getting sufficient sleep is vital for reducing stress and maintaining hormonal balance. When you sleep, it enables your adrenal glands to release less stress hormones and produce enough DHEA.
DHEA increases happy hormones, but did you know that being happy increases DHEA production? You can boost your DHEA levels naturally by cultivating joy in your life. You might do this by connecting with other people in a healthy, loving way, or by joining a local class or group that shares the same interest or hobby as you.
If you have a positive outlook, you’ll create a self-sustaining cycle of DHEA production. You’ll make more DHEA, which could increase your levels of serotonin, also known as “the happy neurotransmitter”. This in turn gives you a better outlook, which raises your DHEA levels, and so the cycle continues.
Other benefits of DHEA
DHEA isn’t just great for reducing the symptoms of menopause. It also gives you strength, immunity, and stamina, as well as:
- Improved memory, mental clarity and focus
- Increased energy and vitality
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved ability to cope with stress
Before receiving DHEA treatment, you should undergo a comprehensive medical test to determine whether you have low DHEA levels. If so, your doctor can then recommend DHEA supplements and advise on an appropriate dosage. Remember, only take DHEA under medical supervision and in conjunction with regular testing and a healthy lifestyle.
It’s important to have regular tests to monitor potential side effects, like hair loss, a deepened voice, facial or body hair growth, acne, bouts of increased irritability, weight gain around the waist, breast tenderness, or mood swings. If you make more testosterone than oestrogen, for example, taking DHEA could make you produce even more testosterone, so regular testing is crucial to maintain a healthy hormonal balance.
Enjoying the benefits of DHEA in menopause
By increasing your DHEA levels and restoring hormone balance, you’ll improve your health and reduce the severity of common symptoms of menopause. And you don’t need to take DHEA forever – once balance is restored and your symptoms improve, dietary and lifestyle changes may allow you to produce enough DHEA on your own.
If you’re in menopause and considering using DHEA supplements, speak to your healthcare provider to discuss which option will work best for you.
At the Australian Menopause Centre, we provide DHEA treatment to women in menopause who have adrenal fatigue. Contact us today and see how we can help you enjoy the benefits of DHEA.